Sesame puppeteer relieved as sex claim dropped

Voice actor Kevin Clash arrives with the puppet Elmo for the 2010 Peabody Award ceremony in New York in this May 17, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files

LOS ANGELES: The puppeteer behind Elmo on "Sesame Street" voiced relief Tuesday, after a man who accused him of underage sex was reported to have dropped the claim.

The makers of the beloved US children's television show -- who said Monday they were letting Kevin Clash take time off to deal with the claims -- also welcomed the withdrawal of the accusation.

"I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest. I will not discuss it further," said Clash, in a statement sent by his publicist Risa Heller.

Sesame Workshop, which makes the long-running TV show, added on its website: "We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a close, and we are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode."

The reactions came after lawyers for the unidentified accuser, Andreozzi & Associates, said he "wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship.

"He will have no further comment on the matter," the law firm said, cited by the New York Times. The firm did not immediately respond to requests for the statement.

Clash -- the subject of an award-winning documentary last year -- said Monday he was taking time out to handle the matter -- and denied the accuser was under the age of consent, which is 17 in New York where the show is made.

"I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter. I had a relationship with the accuser," Clash said Monday.

Sesame Workshop said it was contacted in June by the man who claimed to have had a relationship with Clash seven years ago, when he was 16. Clash was reportedly 45 at the time.

Clash was the subject of last year's "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey," a documentary narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, which won a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

"Sesame Street," which first appeared on public television in November 1969, teaches children the basics of reading, writing and counting.

Sesame Workshop said Monday that the claim would not have an impact on the show.

"Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of Sesame Street to engage, educate and inspire children around the world," it said.





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